There are no set service intervals. It is really more about time scales and usage. If you have sailed for years, or thousands of miles with no rig maintenance, then it is most definitely time!
Many older rigs might look fine, but there may be less obvious signs that signify it is time for a full service. A routine visual rig inspection should identify any areas which need further attention.
Things that you can look for out for include but should not be limited to the following:
At Berthon we have a dedicated on-site rigging team that undertake our 150 point rig inspection covering every inch of your mast, boom, spreaders, standing and running rigging. Your rigger will advise whether these are urgent or can be left until the boat is out of commission.
The standing rigging has a finite life span which depends on usage but can also be determined by age. Insurance companies often require a thorough survey of standing rigging at around 10 years and our experienced riggers do this by using specialist NDT equipment (non-destructive testing) with the mast in situ. Obviously such testing is easier when the mast is down at which point we advise that the spreaders and winches are removed to check for rot/corrosion or cracks at the relevant stress points. We would always recommend a thorough mast survey when planning blue water cruising.
It depends on the way the chain plates are made and fitted, but a visual inspection will generally reveal any issues. If the chain plate is removed from the deck or hull they can be checked by dye testing or ultrasound. Again, pretty essential if you wish to take a belt and braces approach prior to a global cruise.
The options for aluminum spars are anodizing or painting, both of which have benefits. Anodizing is more durable whereas paint is more aesthetic but in time will develop cosmetic problems.
Wooden or carbon spars must be properly protected with a suitable paint or varnish / epoxy system.
It is unusual for the mast tube to fail without some trigger, which will generally be either the failure of a swage terminal or rod head or often a spreader root.
If mast wiring is in good condition and working, there should be no need to change it. However, it is a lot easier to do with the mast on the ground, so if in doubt, replace it.
Mast wire cluster at the base of the mast.
It is really a matter of choice and budget. Some boats may have class rules which will influence the decision. Carbon spars with a veneered finish will save a huge amount of weight aloft, but the cost will be considerably more than a traditional wooden spar. There are also paint finishes that replicate the look of traditional wood.
The time to address any general rig maintenance is at the end of the season when the boat is laid up. If the mast is to be un-stepped then this is the time to carry out a full rig inspection and service. The rig should be laid out on a sufficient number of trestles to properly support the mast tube.
Rigging screws should be unwound and the studs and body cleaned and inspected.
Furling units should be inspected for wear and condition. Line guards, split drums and line feeders should be removed to avoid them being damaged in storage.
The mast tube should be carefully inspected for any cosmetic damage including dents, compression, corrosion and general wear around fittings. All mast fittings should be checked for condition.
Sheaves and sheave pins should be inspected for wear and condition. Damaged sheaves should be replaced.
Masthead electronics and navigation lights should be checked for wear or damage and mast cables should be checked for condition. Antennas and wind units should be removed and stored on board and all sockets, plugs and exposed cable ends should be sealed with tape.
The mast tube should be cleaned and moving parts lubricated as required.
Wooden or lacquered carbon spars should be stored undercover where possible, or at least covered to protect them from the effects of ultra violet light. Cosmetic damaged to coatings should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the substrates.
The standing rigging should be removed from the mast and all terminals thoroughly cleaned and checked. If in doubt NDT (non-destructive testing) should be carried out on terminals and fittings. This can either be by electronic testing, dye penetrant testing or by ultra sound. Rigging should be coiled and stored separately and not tied to the mast, which may lead to corrosion issues.
Rod rigging should be thoroughly cleaned and visually inspected. If in doubt, or if the service life of the rigging demands it, rod heads and fittings should be tested using NDT (non-destructive testing).
Spreaders and spreader end fittings should also be removed for inspection, cleaned and stored with the rigging.
Where damage is found you should consult a skilled rigger to advise on the correct procedure to rectify the problem. Damage found to wire rigging shrouds should always be replaced in pairs. i.e. if the port lower shroud is stranding, then both port and starboard lowers must be replaced to ensure both are of equal strength and condition.
The process should start with a thorough visual rig inspection to identify any issues. Berthon can then provide full quotations for undertaking any work required. Our in-house rigging department can carry out all aspects of rig service and repair. Where damage is found your rigger will be able to offer advice on the appropriate course of action in respect of repairs.
That depends on the individual insurance company, but an assurance that the rig is properly maintained and in good condition will certainly not increase your premium providing you heed the advice above. Having taken all possible precautionary measures to reduce the risk of future problems you might also get a better night’s sleep!
For further detailed information on all aspects of rig servicing call Berthon Rigging Manager Robin Milledge 01590 673312
Rigging for Bluewater Yachting – Blog Article by Robin Milledge for the World Cruising Club.